Julie McKinney, MS
November 14, 2022

Transition to school for 3-5 year olds with disabilities: a timeline

Is your child with a disability getting ready for pre-k or Kindergarten? Here’s a timeline of exactly what you need to do at each point.

Timeline for Early Childhood Transition

Starting kindergarten or Pre-K is hard on young kids with disabilities…and their parents! There is a lot to do to make sure your child will get the services and support they need to be successful in school. 

This timeline lists the main things to do from when you first know that your child has a disability or developmental delay to the point when they start school, hopefully with a good special education plan.

Special education services start at age 3 for children with qualifying disabilities. If your child is already getting Early Intervention services (for kids age 0-3), your coordinator can help you through this.


Click to Read Transcript

Timeline for Early Childhood Transition

Age 0-2*

Identify disability and find support

  • Get developmental assessments
  • Contact Early Intervention & family support centers
  • Look into state disability benefits for children

Age 2.2 (2 years, 2 months)

Connect with school district

  • Gather Assessments & reports
  • Contact Child Find or Child Search
  • Get hearing & vision screenings

Age 2.9

Get evaluation and prepare IEP (Individualized Education Program)

  • Get special ed evaluation through your school district
  • Have IEP meeting & finalize IEP
  • Apply for pre-k options and help child prepare

Age 3

Services switch to school-based

  • School system is now in charge of specialized services
  • Make sure the IEP is in place by 3rd birthday
  • Form a good relationship with the IEP team

Age 3-5

Check progress

  • Monitor services and progress
  • Annual IEP meetings (more if needed!)
  • Visit kindergarten options and help child prepare

Age 5+

Start kindergarten!

  • Meet with teacher about IEP
  • Keep in touch with teacher & IEP team
  • Line up other benefits & support

Visit /early-childhood for more.

Get the full-size PDF version of this graphic here. Feel free to download, print, and share with others!

Learn more about the transition into school for young children with disabilities. (It’s written for Louisiana, but most of the information applies to any state.)

  • Julie McKinney, MS

    Director of Product Content and Health Literacy Specialist

    Julie McKinney is a health literacy expert with extensive experience writing and revising health information for audiences with lower literacy skills. She has a BS from Brown University and an MS from Northeastern. As a parent of a child with a disability, Julie also has a personal understanding of the barriers that complex health information presents, and a heartfelt appreciation for information that is easy to understand and use.

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